Wednesday, April 12, 2006

SOME PROBLEMS WITH Rob Bell's TEACHINGS (Part I)


"WE WANT spiritual direction, but it has to be real for US
and available when WE need it. WE WANT a new format for
getting Christian perspectives...

... issues that WE care about, that WE want to talk about, and it comes in a way that fits OUR world. It's a format that's there for US when WE need it, as WE need it, how WE need it." (1)

This is the statement that introduces (on the website) the Rob Bell Nooma teaching materials and videos from Mars Hill Church.

You may ask: So, what's wrong with that? Well, it's a bit self centered. Self-centeredness is the exact opposite of how Jesus presented this call to follow him. Jesus gave one option in following Him. That is on His terms. To follow Him the way HE wants it, when HE wants it, what HE cares about, what HE wants to talk about in a way that fits HIS world in a format that's there for HIM. It's got nothing to do with us. At all. Oh, and by the way, this is nothing "new".

Here's how Christ described the cost of discipleship Luke 9:23, 24: "Then he said to them all: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." (NIV)

Maybe the youth of today can spot phoniness a mile away. I don't know. But I do know that it would benefit today's young people greatly to recognize the self-centeredness reflected in the opening statement of the Rob Bell video series (we'll discuss the content of the videos in the near future). I once heard that it's hard to see your whole body when your nose is pressed up against the mirror of self. This bent towards self fulfillment is dangerous and counter to the Gospel. It conveys a different Gospel, one without inconvenience to self, which scripture warns against. Consider Galatians 1:7, 8. "Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (NIV)

2. Emergents like Rob Bell often prefer to embrace mystery (2) rather than certainty. That's why Rob Bell, as shocking as this is, recently led YOGA breathing exercises in one of his church services (3). It's bad enough that Rob Bell presents a discipleship that is totally on your terms without costing you any inconvenience and promising instant gratification, but going so far as to conduct YOGA exercises at Mars Hill Church?. Since when should an evangelical pastor promote idolatrous, mystical, eastern, religious practices in the church? This goes totally against what Ephesians 5:11 tells us: "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." (KJV)
Rob Bell did not reprove unfruitful works of darkness like YOGA, he has actually approved and promoted them. Can today's "Christ followers" spot idolatrous Eastern mysticism a mile away? Many at Mars Hill Church obviously can't.

Stay tuned for Part II.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
[Footnotes]
1. taken from NOOMA FILMS.

2. ("...we want to embrace mystery, rather than conquer it."..Rob Bell
Christianity Today, November 2004 article entitled THE EMERGENT MYSTIQUE)

3. taken from an Emergent blog site: echurchnetwork.net

-KCO

26 Comments:

Blogger Loki said...

I like Rob Bell's Nooma Video's

2:56 PM  
Blogger melbugg said...

How dare you belittle God's love for me. God tells me through Rob's video's how much he loves me and wants a relationship with me. This world is telling me how unimportant I am. But God loves me, (me, me, me) so much that he sent his son to be crucified ( for me) ! Yes we should humble ourselves and not showoff about our works for him. But we should not be jealous or against another Christian idea of how to get God's word to everyone. Dont nit pick. Remember how critical the Pharises were.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

I wonder if you've ever listened to a message by Rob Bell or read his book.

Time and time again I stumble across people who criticize without doing their research.

Let's hope you're not one of them.

2:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find this blog to be a bit hyperbolic; however, that is not to say that Rob Bell is not, to some extent, guilty as charged.

His problem, in my opinion, extends far beyond his supposed self-centeredness to a self-help theology almost utterly void of Jesus Christ.

Consider his own description of a dream church (excerpted from Velvet Elvis): There should be "desire, longing, come as you are spirit, connection, a group of people who can imagine nothing better..." Bell might as well be described a meeting of the Rotary Club; how about Jesus? Can we squeeze him in there somewhere? Anywhere?

Jesus Christ is not a "given" in Mars Hill, or in any other church for that matter. Rob Bell is not shepherding his people to a deeper, more radical discipleship, not pointing them to Christ; rather, he is engineering a movement from a modernist quaisi-Christianity to a postmodern quasi-Christianity.

His is merely the opposite side of the fundamentalist coin: In a fashion almost equally dogmatic, he is simply exchanging the absolutist answers for questions. There is still no mention of Jesus. In his opening lines he says "Jesus calls people to rethink." Call me old-fashioned, but Jesus calls people to a rebirth.

Bell says the "challenge to the Christian is to live with great passion and conviction." That certainlly appeals to our postmodern sensibilities, but Scripture challenges Christians to live without sin.

4:25 AM  
Blogger ableknife said...

I can certainly see some of your concerns about these teachings. I think, though, we have to be careful to study all the facts and try to see the motives behind it all. Not knowing Rob Bell personally, we are forced to judge him, and maybe from a viewpoint that isn't really fair. Yet, we should still use good discernment as well. It's a tough line to walk!
If you are interested more, though, in the emerging movement, you may want to check out Rick McKinley's book Jesus in the Margins.
blessings~

8:20 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

Hello,
I don't know you and I don't know Rob. I do know the fruit coming ou of the ministry at Mars Hill. I do know lives are being changed all over the world. They are confronted with the truth of scripture and its application to all people. I ask, what is your motivation behind bashing the "catch phrase", probably written by a marketing team, on the front of teaching material targetting the lost.

Do not make the mistake of judging based on out of context exerpts. I would agree that we are called to CHrist, who is the way the truth and the life. I would disagree, though that teaching people where they are is wrong. We are called to, as Jesus was, to be all things to all people, and to seek to save the lost. How can we do that without getting our hands dirty? And also, I believe the anonymous person is absolutely wrong in heir assessment of the teachng at MArs Hill to be void of CHrist and a form of self-help theology. They very clearly have either not heard a single teaching from Mars Hill, or have a serious sin that is causing them to be critical of what God is doing in the lives of so many people.

Also, you can make ANYTHING sound important or CONTROVERSAL by applying the CAPS lock.

I am anxious to read what you have to say about the videos.

8:40 PM  
Blogger JonathanBrink said...

What's wonderful about Rob is that he doesn't have to SAY Jesus because he is BEING Jesus to so many people. You want to talk about sacrifice? Take a look at the XYZ campaign they have going on. I was at a conference in February at his church and he basically said he wants to convince everyone to give as much money as they can to Mars Hill so they can give it to the poor. Isn't this Jesus?

2:08 AM  
Anonymous zbomb33 said...

I find your blog interesting, you reference to Rob saying "we" "our" "us". God called us to be ministers, disciples to the masses. Rob said this in the context of having God's hand and blessing in our lives. I believe that Christ brings these issues to us, and we need to embrace them and try to make a difference in the world. The way you misconstrue what he says here sickens me, you only use it to further your own convictions. And that is your right, but DON'T for one second think that Mr. Bell is saying that WE without Christ do anything because it's easy or convenient.

If you think that yoga is not fruitfull and dark you are clearly mistaken. How does that pertain to anything really?

Get this, Rob just sold his house in the suburbs for a house that's in the ghetto of Grand Rapids, sold a car, and placed his children in GR public schools. He walks his kids to school everday past drug dealers, homeless people, and prostitutes. If this is not following the God of the opressed, Jesus Christ, then I don't know what is.

Nooma's are meant to reach a demographic that normally would not be interested in the church or do not know about God. If you think Rob Bell preaches convenience, and instant gratification, you are SORELY mistaken. He teaches exactly the opposite, so I don't know where you get off even saying that. Perhaps lack of understanding of Mars Hill's ministry? Or ignorance? I cannot judge you on that, but please consider the alternative.

I would challenge you to do some more research before you try to mislead other readers who stumble onto this post. Maybe listen to some of Rob's teachings, maybe visit the gathering sometime?

I also ask you to listen this week to May 6's sermon, it's a question/answewr session with Rob Bell. I think you will be blown away.

God bless you, and I hope you can have an open mind to some of the things I have said here

1:58 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Excuse my ignorance, but is this "Mars Hill" the same one located in the Seattle area? If so, you have completely askewed the pastor's theology. The pastor of Mar's Hill in Seattle is conservative and reformed in his theology. You are taking a thought from his approach to ministry and putting a slant to it.

(If you are talking about a different "mars hill" then excuse my ignorance.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Kennyo said...

You are thinking of Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill in Seattle. This is not the same. This post is referring to Rob Bell's Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan

http://www.marshill.org/

for discerning research check out:

http://www.apprising.org/archives/rob_bell/index.html

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

I think the author of this article is a cynical bastard! If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all!!! Or are you winning more souls to Jesus maybe?

3:48 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

love wins.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Shea said...

If Christianity is about feeling better, doing better, being better people, then by all means - let's hear whatever anyone has to say that might help! Let's not be critical or make judgments about silly things like truth. If people are getting better because Jesus is set before them as a great moral example then the tree is bearing good fruit, let's not hack at it's roots by exposing inconsistencies and/or fallacies!

If, however, Christianity is something more than just another formulation of religion for the good of man and woman then precision of truth matters. The distinctives matter.

If everything is true, then nothing is false and therefore nothing is really true. The dilemma of mankind marches on with no resistance in sight! The plastic messiahs will be trampled underfoot as we march to destruction!

The incarnation is utterly absurd if all we really needed from Jesus was a better example, some better teaching, some stronger motivation to be good and choose wisely. Moreover, the cross and the resurrection is far from the center point of time and space that the Apostles and the early church proclaimed it to be.

If for this life only we have believed, then we are to be pitied most among all people - our "religion" in that case is among the stupidest to have ever existed.

If the "truth" is what the Emergent circles are teaching - I'm shaving my head and becoming a buddhist.

12:38 PM  
Blogger matt said...

Wow, this article and the majority of comments sound like most of you think you are much wiser than you probably are. Rob Bell is making people think about christian beleifs for themselves instead of accepting what they have always been taught. There is an extreme amount of truth in his teaching and we would all do well to use it where we can in our lives and not belittle it.

8:40 AM  
Blogger John said...

people buy in to the lie that established doctrines handed down from the apostles are out of touch with reality and needs contextualizing. The power is in the Spirit, not in man's clever schemes. Is Rob wiser than the Apostles? True doctrine stands for all time; it does not need to be reinvented to fit culture or context. Read 2 Tim 3:10-16. Before you can "think for yourself", you must have in your head and heart the same teachings taught in the Bible and have it interpreted in a way that is consistent with all other teachings. Right doctrine equals right thinking. Think for yourself in relation to the world, think inline with Scripture and the godly men and women who are faithful. You have the choice to rethink established truths. But do so at your own peril.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Jimmy said...

Understanding Rob Bell cannot fully be accomplished without understanding New Age philosophy which he relies heavily on. Is he a Christian or a heretic? That is for God to decide. However, I would say that his descriptions of God, while appealing to young believers, are popular with those taught a dogmatic understanding of the law yet thirsting spiritually. These teachings lack the fundemental foundations that provide us the ability to stand firm and grow closer to God. Rob Bell (whom I have listened to frequently) uses selective bible verses to support his greater point. Often it is a point fueled by secular and New Age Sources regarding how we can actialize. (Yoga Breathing, Peter Failed to walk on water b/c he didn't believe in himself, YOU are the gospel). The point is always that Jesus is there He loves you (true and true) and you can become better person. The Kingdom of God is waiting to happen here. Bell is essentially taking New Age philosophy of self actualiztion through connection to the great spirit and making the great Spirit Jesus. In doing so he abondons some of the tenants of the faith (original sin, repentance, renewal through faith not works, infallibility of scripture) which allow us to break free of the bonds which hold us and live lives in Christ Jesus. Our call is to experience the Good News and the gosphel which lives in us (it is not us) and spread the word so that others might be saved from the lake of fire. The point is not to bring the Kingdome here, but to bring those here into the Kingdom which was and is and is to come. This is a life of suffering and joy and trial. All of the first saints with the exception of John were executed and were ushered into heaven. This is the final chapter which Bell does not ever address.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Ben Laakso said...

Melbugg, the Pharisees were never scolded by Jesus because they were critical. Jesus was critical of them because of their hypocrisy, and their attempts to subvert the law to suit themselves. See Matt 15:1-9.

From what I have heard of Rob Bell, and listened to him, he doesn't preach the Gospel. I will continue to observe, listen and be critical, so that I do not fall prey to his heresies either.

Jon,

Yes, some of us have heard of him, listened to him and have still found him wanting.

Start challenging his statements and contrast them to the whole bible, not just selected verses that agree with him.

False prophets and wolves in sheep's clothing are deceptive, because they know the lingo, know how to act and can mix truth with error skillfully enough to fool people who do not know what they believe.

I would encourage you to read some Reform theology, not just Calvin. I would start with RC Sproul and try that. I think you will have a hard time refuting his interpretation and teaching.

This is a great article and much appreciated.

ben

ben

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOGA is dark and evil? Only if you use it that way. I don't know about you but God gave me discernment. And I don't know about your brain, but mine likes oxygen, I find it helps me to be discerning and think clearly. YOGA is breathing and movements that are exercise just like going to the gym. Not being able to discern and therefore shutting out anything our parents or teachers didn't say was par for us Americans growing up leads to mindsets that send bombs on people that we don't understand. Love, Travis James

2:47 PM  
Blogger John said...

I really appreciate MOST of the balanced commentary here on both sides of the coin. Rob Bell and the rest of the Emerging Church has spotted the fact that the church today is losing relevancy. We are huddling in our little holy cliques and failing to reach the world, much less the neighborhood around us. Their efforts to buck tradition and embrace a post-modern world view of scripture have raised a lot of eyebrows in the church. Certainly there are good points on both sides of the debate. On Rob's side, the church is losing relevancy and we must meet people where they are at now, not where the baby boomers, our parents, were at 50 years ago. On the other side, the dangerous extreme of the Emerging Church movement is that we completely forsake tradition and time honored doctrines of the church in favor of our own version of the truth (I think this is what the author of the post is getting at). I don't believe that Rob Bell is pushing for this, but unfortunately, it's the extreme that some people will take it to. When the Nooma site uses "WE" so gratuitously, my take on it is that they are focusing on cultural relevency vs. the traditional church of our parents and grandparents.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Bryan Snyder said...

Allow me to just say that I respect your opinion. Seriously, I do. Now listen to mine:

1. Self-centeredness? It may be hard to remember, but at one point in your life you were looking for God. I am willing to bet that you did not ask God into your heart because you just felt like it and because you wanted to do something for God. Most people come to Christ broken and distraught, looking for mercy and grace. The have a problem that needs met. That's why Rob Bell' intro is such. Because he wants people who do not go to his church or any church perhaps that God has something for them at ALL times.

2. I think that people today focus too much on certainty, and, in doing so, forget the wonderful mystery of God. It's humbling to not know all the answers.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point one I have with Rob Bells teaching. my wife and I ran a college group they talked about rob bell, rob bell, rob bell they knew more about rob then they did Jesus or at least spoke more of Him. 2nd I hate to say it but there is love and salvation yet it came with a large price.

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:13-16) bell says we were all breathed on by God so we all have God in us. a total contradiction to the verse above.

5:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the person posted directly above me. You are 100% correct. The emergent movement seems to be more understanding of Rob Bell's teaching than the teachings of the Scriptures. When we begin to replace God's word with short film's that tell us how wonderful we and how "God needs Us" (lies by the way)we're in trouble. I have seen so many emergents on the internet and on message boards that qoute Mr. Bell insteach of the Holy Scriptures. Of course, this makes sense because Rob is teaching these people that the Bible is not trustworthy. And if you are reading this and disagree..I say you should do your research before accepting what this man says. Too many times its "You should do your research before making statements against Rob Bell." Have any of you ever even comprehended the fact that maybe its you who hasnt done your research. Since when did we become a generation of generic sheep instead of independent thinkers. I always question what I hear. You should too.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Adriel said...

i used to be really into rob bell's books and nooma vids, but after reading the book "why we're not emergent by two guys who should be" authored by kevin deyoung and ted kluck, i really began to see the holes in rob bell's teachings. the emergent movement is not all its cracked up to be and it is misleading a lot of people, especially of the younger generations who lack discernment. i would definitely suggest that anybody read that book and really hold the emergent leader's teachings up to Scripture if they are questioning the emergent movement.

1:42 AM  
Blogger Charlie Holmes said...

Have you presented your critique of Rob Bell's teachings to Rob Bell for a rebuttal? Seems that, if you're true to God, you'd offer him the opportunity to PUBLICLY answer your charges.

How about it?

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Marla said...

Hi there, I'm glad you have the courage to be honest. People following Rob Bell remind me of the old story of the Emperors new clothes. They don't like to look like they are not right up there with whatever is the latest in "Christianity" so they blindly follow whoever is cool at the time and mimic each other. They think Rob is terribly intellectual and someone who will impress their friends and add importance to their lives. I can't figure out whether he knows he's pulling the wool over their eyes and having a good laugh or geniunely believes he's doing God's work, but I do know this- I have read his books and watched his DVD's and he is a clever salesman and twister of the truth.

7:33 AM  
Blogger gruvdog said...

@ Ben:
Do you not see your hypocrisy? What did YOU say that was nice?

6:45 PM  

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